Port Red

I know a man who owns an Xbox and only one game. That game is Halo, and this man is an Obsessive/Compulsive.

This man started playing Halo at the recommendation of a relative. When he bought it, he could barely survive five minutes at the lowest difficulty setting. When I met this man, and heard his story, he'd been playing it for over a year and had graduated to Heroic. It was his goal, he told me, to beat the game on Legendary sometime that year. He was very serious about it.

He reminded me of my stepfather, who'd purchased a Sega Genesis at the urging of one of his employees. The only game he bought for it was Desert Strike. He'd come home from work, shower, eat dinner and then play Desert Strike for a couple of hours before going to bed. I'm sure he would have enjoyed other games if he'd taken the time to try them, but he was happy as a clam just playing that one game over and over. To him it was like playing dominoes or hearts. It was just another game, and not one to be taken too seriously.

In an interesting aside, I recently visited my stepfather and he asked me (thirteen years later) to set up the Genesis for him so that he could play Desert Strike. Apparently he hadn't been able to use the system since I'd left for college.

I know another gamer, let's call him 4rr0w_m4k3r, who recently went about playing games in a completely different manner. 4rr0w_m4k3r had spent more than half of his life amassing vast libraries of games, from which he'd briefly play one before moving on to another. 4rr0w_m4k3r would walk into the ToysRUs and weep, suffering a reverse-Alexandrian heartache thinking of all the worlds that he simply would not have time to conquer. Yet he tried. Oh yes.

In the year 1998, 4rr0w_m4k3r sold more than fifty PC games, boxes and all, that he'd owned for little more than a year and had only played briefly. Several years prior to that, 4rr0w_m4k3r had participated in an illicit 8-bit NES black market, trading used games for other used games to feed his and his dorm mates' addictions without spending any precious beer money in the process. The number of games 4rr0w_m4k3r played only a few levels of and then discarded in that year alone would not be believed if written here.

These are not isolated incidents. As a child of the electronic age, 4rr0w_m4k3r has been playing video games for his entire life, and the number of games he has played is not even possible to estimate. 4rr0w_m4k3r can remember playing Donkey Kong Jr. on his ColecoVision as a child of nine or ten, while eating PopTarts and wondering why the world had gotten to be so boring just in time for his arrival. Like a perverted negative image of the Great depression generation, 4rr0w_m4k3r breaks out into cold sweats if his larder is not stocked with fresh games. 4rr0w_m4k3r will not leave the house without at least one game or game device, with a backup in case the first one gets old. 4rr0w_m4k3r has grown up, but his reliance on video games has not waned. In fact, if anything, it's increased.

As an adult, 4rr0w_m4k3r has access to his own source of financing and can schedule his own time more completely. He has completed his journey as it were, and has now achieved what he had only dreamt about so many years before. He can buy a game essentially whenever he wants, and play it as long as he'd like. He still can't afford to buy every game, nor can he devote more than a few hours to them on a week day evening, but his life has been structured around the fact that he is a video gaming adult, and he is content.

Too content, perhaps. For here is the rub: 4rr0w_m4k3r isn't buying a lot of games right now. That's not to say that there aren't games out there that interest him. Quite the contrary, there are dozens of games out right now that have perked his ears up. There is even an entire console system that he has yet to acquire, and he is sure that he'd enjoy at least a few games for it. Yet 4rr0w_m4k3r is not stocking his larder. He is not even renting. But he's still playing.

On Thursday, 4rr0w_m4k3r returns home from work and takes off his work shoes. He rests for a few minutes, changes clothes and then takes the dog for a walk. Then he makes dinner, eats, pours himself a drink and sits down to relax by playing a game. 4rr0w_m4k3r owns two of the current-gen game consoles and for these consoles he owns five games that he has yet to play. Yet to even open. He owns more than twenty games that he hasn't finished, and there are currently twice that number of games on his wish list. Games that he would pick up in an instant if he thought about it.

But he's not thinking about it. Nor is he opening those mint-in-box video games, nor is he worrying overmuch about finishing any of his games. 4rr0w_m4k3r is thinking about how nice it is to have one good game in his hands that he can play night after night and never tire of. One good game that he's been playing off and on for several months and hasn't even gotten half-way through. He's is thinking that, as an aging gamer, it's nice that some developers still take the time to pack a game with enough content to keep a gamer like himself busy and interested for a good long while.

4rr0w_m4k3r is growing older. He is coming to understand that quality is far more important than quantity, and that quality is subjective. That video games, much like fine women and fine wines have their own distinctive character, and that the best of them linger on the palate and on the mind. No two bottles of wine can substitute for one great one, for example. Just as one loving, nurturing woman can sustain a man for the rest of his days.

4rr0w_m4k3r may never pare his gaming experience down to just one game, but he is reluctant to spend time with those for which he does not feel a lasting affection. He is reluctant to shop around, and is more than happy to spend more money for more quality. His tastes are becoming more refined and perhaps he is learning to enjoy life for what is rather than yearning for what it is not.

But we have come very far a field from our point.

It is Thursday evening, as I said, and having taken care of the evening's business, 4rr0w_m4k3r turns on his Xbox and fires up Mercenaries. It's not an overly original game. It is, in fact, a GTA clone, but 4rr0w_m4k3r was never able to get into the ghetto tone of the GTA series, and the controls always felt awkward to him. Mercenaries, however, is less Boyz N the Hood and more Yojimbo, and the controls are perfect. Plus (d00d!) there's helicopters. It may not be the last game 4rr0w_m4k3r ever plays, nor the best, but for now he is content to spend hours exploring its every nuance, and reveling in the bliss that is a good, steady gaming experience.

Comments

As always, you write a great front page article.

I find myself unfortunately moving in the opposite direction. While in junior high/high school/college, I had the free time, but no money. I would make sure to choose wisely when it came to games, to ensure quality was at its highest so I could be satisfied for an extended period of time, for my game purchases were few and far between.

Now that I'm past that point in my life I have more purchasing power, but less time. Like your wine analogy, I'm grabbing various bottles of wine without caution or concern and stocking my cellar. Some never get opened, and many have been popped but left barely touched only to go flat with time as I moved onto bottle after bottle. Always thinking there will come a time when I'll be able to put my archive of games to use and play through them with an open schedule.

Thankfully I'm at a small point in time in my life where I'm open to enjoy any game for as long as I want. I'm trying to make up for lost time and pick up where I left off on various RPGs, and onward to discover hidden treasures in my closet.

Man, this 4rr0w_m4k3r dude sounds like a total jackass. I'd punch him, right in the face, if I ever met him!

Unlike you, Fletcher, who are so awesome. =D

Great article Fletch.

It's been a while since I've had a game fill that role though. I tend to do lots of bouncing around from one game to another lately

stauf7 wrote:

I find myself unfortunately moving in the opposite direction. While in junior high/high school/college, I had the free time, but no money. I would make sure to choose wisely when it came to games, to ensure quality was at its highest so I could be satisfied for an extended period of time, for my game purchases were few and far between.

Now that I'm past that point in my life I have more purchasing power, but less time.

I completely relate there - since I've started working in high school, I've been the same way, I can purchase far more than I could ever play. Now I agonize over what to buy not because I can't get another one for awhile, but because the time I have to play is so limited. Perhaps when I leave college I'll manage to scrounge up some time.

Nice write Fletcher!

Games! I once thought that my gaming hobby would die with DKC for SNES. I didn't have any money, I was 15 and I've done one thing that I never did... ask my parents for money with a promise that it would be last time. I kept my word never ask my parents for money... didn't stop me from gaming though. I've played that game so many times... soundtrack was fantastic. Still have few tunes in my iPod. I really don't know where I'm heading with this...

I play! I play every day at least an hour (rare!). There are time that I just can't whether I come home from work at midnight or just tired. When I don't play, I feel like some thing is missing which causes me to think about games. Dependancy, addiction, escape for reality... what ever any one call it but it's something different from my every day. ALthough the activity is the same... every time it's different. Different is good... because so far everything runs like clock work! I wake up at same time, get out of the house at same time, stop by for the same cup of coffee at Starbuks everyday which cost me the same amount. I go to my office the same way every day... walking yes but I say hi to the receptionist, say hi to one and only co-worker that is there at this time of day. I sit in my office... do my work and then go home... at same time, see the same people... and I still have no clue where I'm going with this.

Never-mind... pay no mind to me... err... this post does not exist and you... have not seen anything...

As an adult, 4rr0w_m4k3r has access to his own source of financing and can schedule his own time more completely. He has completed his journey as it were, and has now achieved what he had only dreamt about so many years before. He can buy a game essentially whenever he wants, and play it as long as he'd like. He still can't afford to buy every game, nor can he devote more than a few hours to them on a week day evening, but his life has been structured around the fact that he is a video gaming adult, and he is content.

That's pretty much me to a T, right there. Good job pinning the average adult gamer, Fletch, I think. I buy one new game a month, maybe. I game one or two nights a week around work, school, hockey, martial arts, DVDs, etc. Until WoW, I'd play one game maybe 10 -20 sittings and move on to the next. I think that's what most adult gamers with families gravitate toward as well.

At the risk of taking it more seriously than I should, Fletcher's article brings up a really good point about the nature of maturity. Maturity in part means being able to see the benefits of quality over quantity; this axiom doesn't just apply to games, but to dating, cooking, literature, TV, sleep, movies, shopping, and all the other various pasttimes we fill our days with.

Children (and puppies :evil:) are obsessed with novelty: new toys, games, food, whatever must be provided with relative frequency, lest they get bored - they appreciate the novelty of the item, but not the item itself. The mature are able to appreciate the item even apart from its novelty. I think the latter is, in the end, more satisfied with the item and his experiences with it. Its hard to appreciate the game you're playing when you're always dreaming of the next one.

Anyway, good job Fletch. Loved it, as always. I did think the article was going to be about liquor, though, from the title...

Fletcher wrote:

He reminded me of my stepfather, who'd purchased a Sega Genesis at the urging of one of his employees. The only game he bought for it was Desert Strike. He'd come home from work, shower, eat dinner and then play Desert Strike for a couple of hours before going to bed. I'm sure he would have enjoyed other games if he'd taken the time to try them, but he was happy as a clam just playing that one game over and over. To him it was like playing dominoes or hearts. It was just another game, and not one to be taken too seriously.

That's funny, my dad is the same way to some extent. He hadn't played games since the Atari 2600 days, when he had a brief stint as a borderline addict. Then, one fateful Christmas break, I brought home the first Serious Sam game and installed it on his machine. Suddenly he was hooked again, and in the most alarming way. He would get so enveloped by the game that he was suffering severe headaches from the stress. His remedy for this was to save his favorite spots in the game and replay them again and again until he had the location and attack pattern of every enemy memorized. He then could effortlessly crush them and feel good about his virtual achievement. He did the same thing with Serious Sam: The Second Encounter. He kind of stalled at Medal of Honor: AA, but to this day he'll still fire it up on his lunch break and shoot some Nazis.

I kind of wish I had that same attention span for games, I'd save myself a lot of money.

Mixolyde wrote:
As an adult, 4rr0w_m4k3r has access to his own source of financing and can schedule his own time more completely. He has completed his journey as it were, and has now achieved what he had only dreamt about so many years before. He can buy a game essentially whenever he wants, and play it as long as he'd like. He still can't afford to buy every game, nor can he devote more than a few hours to them on a week day evening, but his life has been structured around the fact that he is a video gaming adult, and he is content.

That's pretty much me to a T, right there. Good job pinning the average adult gamer, Fletch, I think. I buy one new game a month, maybe. I game one or two nights a week around work, school, hockey, martial arts, DVDs, etc. Until WoW, I'd play one game maybe 10 -20 sittings and move on to the next. I think that's what most adult gamers with families gravitate toward as well.

Ignoring my tender teenage years (during which any games I played tended to be pirated copies, due a combination of limited availability, a yet underdeveloped moral code, and copious amounts of "Everybody else is doing it"), the number of games in my library has followed a kind of bell-shaped curve.

During my 5 years at university I owned maybe a dozen games in total, and Civ2 easily took up 90% of my gaming time. I couldn't afford more games, and was convinced I was missing out on quite a bit of fun. Once I started to have disposable income and the ability to build a dedicated gaming PC, I went on a rampage for a while, buying one or two new titles every week or so, just because they looked or sounded good. I loved installing a new game on my machine and seeing the opening movie. Unfortunately, that is as far as I got with quite a few of them, as many were utter trash.

Eventually I came to realise that I was spending both time and money on a hobby which was becoming less and less satisfying. Having I had given up on game magazines a long time ago, but started paying more attention to online reviews (which, incidentally, is how I ended up here, via the now defunct Gone Gold and Bill Harris).

Gradually, this has led to a pattern where my purchase frequency has dropped to one game every month or two. I have become a very picky gamer, and will usually try to get a second opinion on a title before committing. As a result, my gaming experience has dramatically improved, I'm actually taking the time to finish games, and my wallet is relieved as well.

Nice article Fletch, I'm reminded of an RPGDot artictle I read yesterday, DuckiDeva, and a tag I give myself from time to time.
The article because the author specifically mentions looking for games that he's willing to play over and over and over again. It's a good article describing what he looks for in a "good" game.
DuckiDeva because about once a year, she drags out her old Genesis and asks me to hook it up so she can play Buck Rogers, and old-style, party-based RPG. Mostly she likes the *bleh* sound the enemies make when they die.
And my self-given tag: Serial Monogamer. I play one game at a time, often to O-C levels. Right now it's BF2. Last year it was Joint Ops followed by WoW. Before that it was Civ3 and before that, DAoC. Before DAoC was EQ. Before EQ was The Realm and Alpha Centauri. Oh, sure, I'll download and try demos or reinstall old games or check out emulations, but when it comes down to asking myself "What shall I play?" I don't even usually get to the inkling of the thought. I'll play "the game", whichever one I'm playing right now.

I'm most game publisher/distributors' worst customer, because I'm only buying one or two games a year, not one or two a month like some folks. But there are developers that I will consistently support. DICE has recently been added to the company of Sid Meier and Will Wright. Blashphemy, you say? Nay, they make games I like, and infrequently enough that I can buy them all if I want. Peter Molyneaux used to be on that list, so it's not a permanent appointment, but you have to really tick off the DuckiLama Developers' Hall of Fame Committee to get yanked.

I guess the point is, having started out on time-consuming games back in the days of Astrosmash, Wizardry, MULE, Bard's Tale, Wizard's Crown, Ultimas, Phantasies, etc, I've always been one to concetrate(some would say obsess) on a single title until I've grown weary of it. I can't, personally, come to grips of the idea of splitting my gaming time among any more than 2 titles, much less the dozens that some folks keep installed or next to their console at any given time. If I'm "currently" playing BF2, then I'll play it 'til it gets old. If I'm currently playing Civ4, I'll play that 'til I get old.

Good article. I use to buy loads of games. Sample most, but there is the key word, 'sample'. I rarely put in more then an hour or so on any game. The chosen few I did I played fairly regularly. I loved to see how a system worked, played and looked. (I did the same with boardgames). Now, for one reason or another I just play two. WoW and AA. I may break down and get a game (or some very kind soul get me one they think I really would enjoy), but I my yearn for learning new rules is down drastically. And without the support of so many in the Guild in WoW, I'd probably would of stopped that too in the short term. Just don't have the inclination or drive to 'fathom the secrets' of games anymore. It's a shame. (but a definite savings that I need).

duckilama wrote:

And my self-given tag: Serial Monogamer. I play one game at a time, often to O-C levels. Right now it's BF2. Last year it was Joint Ops followed by WoW. Before that it was Civ3 and before that, DAoC. Before DAoC was EQ. Before EQ was The Realm and Alpha Centauri. Oh, sure, I'll download and try demos or reinstall old games or check out emulations, but when it comes down to asking myself "What shall I play?" I don't even usually get to the inkling of the thought. I'll play "the game", whichever one I'm playing right now.
...
I can't, personally, come to grips of the idea of splitting my gaming time among any more than 2 titles, much less the dozens that some folks keep installed or next to their console at any given time. If I'm "currently" playing BF2, then I'll play it 'til it gets old.

I'm mostly like that too. I find that if I try to multi-task and concurrently work through several games, I usually end up feeling like I've neglected them both, and neither ends up with significant playtime. If it weren't for the lack of time to play games, I'd probably be content to "exhaust" a game - to find every nook and cranny, play it several times, etc. - before moving onto something else. The time issue always has me asking "Is this still worth the time? Is this still as fun as when I started?" which in a lot of games, means it's time to buy a new one halfway through (or after only a couple dozen hours of multiplayer for multiplayer only games.)

Our boy is growing up...*sniff*...I'm getting verklempt again...discuss amongst yourselves, 4rr0w_m4k3r is neither a fletcher nor a game wh*re...

Great article, once again, Fletch, it seems you are at peace with yourself at the ripe old age of 30.

As for me, I'm definitely a one or two game woman. Right now it's still WoW and Psychonauts, but I also love Sid Meier's Pirates! every now and again...so I'm a three game woman I guess...

Well done, Fletcher. You never cease to make me smile and provide a little food for thought to boot.

Now put down Mercs, pick up WoW, and conform, dammit!

I used to get frustrated having dozens of games installed on my machine and not playing any of them. You know, staring at the desktop, all those shiny icons, and none of them appealing enough to boot. I frequently just turned off my pc for that exact reason. Now I think, if a game can't entice me to play on, it's the games fault not mine. Yet I still get that nagging feeling of missing out on something great.

I used to be a pirate too, just recently stopped downloading and copying games (thanks to GWJ actually). Having bought a game is a good incentive to cling on a bit, and see what happens. Actually, the games I used to spend a lot of time with mostly were those I played before my downloading spree.

This is not just a problem of getting mature and enjoying what is instead of what could be, but it is also typical for our society. We have abundant choice at nearly everything we do (just try and pick a yoghurt in the supermarket out of the thousand available), which often leads us to not choosing at all. And feeling we're missing out on something, or better: anything we didn't have the time to try out or percevere in. The grass is always greener in the game you're not playing...

Great article, btw